Virat Kohli returned to his sparkling best to help India continue its World Cup domination of archrival Pakistan, extending its winning streak to six with a lopsided 76-run victory Sunday in front of a crowd at the Adelaide Oval that quite easily could have been transplanted from the subcontinent.
India hadn\’t won a competitive match in two months in Australia leading up to the World Cup, but returned to form suddenly for the grudge match on the bat of Kohli, who ended a run of single-digit innings to score 107 off 126 balls and guide his team to 300-7. In the process, he became the first Indian batsman to score a century against Pakistan in the World Cup, surpassing the 98 that Sachin Tendulkar scored at Centurion in 2003.
"It\’s probably one of the biggest I\’ve had in my career so far," Kohli said of his innings. "Amazing way for us to kick off the World Cup. It\’s a high-pressure game. Good to get that win under the belt."
He went to the crease with the total at 34-1 and shared partnerships of 129 with Shikhar Dhawan (73) and 110 with Suresh Raina (74) before he was caught behind off Sohail Khan (5-55) in the 46th over, triggering a flurry of late wickets.
Raina, who clobbered three sixes and five boundaries in his 56-ball innings, was next out as India lost its last four wickets for 16 runs as Pakistan clawed back into the game.
After dismissing Kohli and Raina, and after Wahab Riaz bowled Ravi Jedaja (3) in the 49th, Sohail Khan started the last over by having M.S. Dhoni (18) caught off a top edge and bowling Ajinkya Rahane (0).
Pakistan\’s chase started badly when veteran Younis Khan (6) was out with the total at 11 and it fizzled out entirely after losing three wickets for one run in nine deliveries — including opener Ahmed Shezhad (47) — to slump to 103-5.
When Shahid Afridi (22) sliced a high catch to Kohli off Mohammad Shami (4-35) to make the total 149-6, groups of Pakistanis in the 41,587 crowd started filing out of the stadium. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq posted the only half-century of the innings and was the ninth wicket to fall, caught off Shami for 76 from 84 balls. It was all over by the 47th over, with Pakistan all out for 224.
"We lost momentum with those three quick wickets — that really hurt us," said Misbah, who was unable to explain India\’s streak against Pakistan. "It\’s important for us just to concentrate on the games which are coming. If you keep on thinking about the game that is gone now, it\’s difficult to perform well."
The first World Cup meeting between the fierce rivals was in 1992 — the last time the tournament was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand — and India started its winning sequence from there.
"Yes, we\’re proud of what we\’ve done," skipper Dhoni said. "The record is good, but it\’s something I don\’t want to get into — there\’ll come a time when we lose, irrespective of it\’s this World Cup, next. It\’s not something that will stay (forever)."
Tendulkar, who played in the previous five wins but retired in 2013, compared the intensity of the two countries\’ World Cup clashes with the level of a final. But this game was rarely in Pakistan\’s grasp after Dhoni won the toss and batted in ideal conditions.
It followed a trend — India had won the toss in four of the previous five World Cup meetings, and Pakistan struggled in pursuit of a target.
The match was advertised as a sellout and organizers were expecting a record TV audience, but apart from some of the Indian batting it didn\’t fulfill its billing.
Kolhi reached triple figures with a single off Afridi to start the 43rd over for his 22nd ODI hundred, and his second in World Cups.
His innings was not without incident — a mix-up led to Dhawan\’s run out at the non-striker\’s end in the 30th over and he had a reprieve on 76 when part-time wicketkeeper Umar Akmal put down a regulation chance.
India will be relying on another big innings from Kohli when it takes on leading contender South Africa in Melbourne next Sunday. Pakistan, the 1992 champion, will play two-time champion West Indies in Christchurch on Saturday.